How should we respond to a loved one, such as a parent on their death bed, asking us to promise to do something for them when they go? A parent may ask you to 'look after your brother' or your mother, your sister... someone in particular. And whilst this might be well intentioned and loving, the effect it can have on a person who enters the pact may be harrowing; a burden which completely changes the course of his or her life. It is also a way of removing the personal responsibility from the person they have been asked to 'look after'.
So how do we deal with these death pacts? They may be well intentioned and caring, but I have seen them lead to people putting up with all kinds of abuse from the other person they have been asked to 'look after'. They would never dream of not 'looking after'/ putting up with nonsense, as this would mean betraying the person who was on their death bed at the time. You may effectively turn into an enabler for this person you've been asked to mind, that is, if they are problematic and draining, damaging and irresponsible - and you never ask them to be accountable because afterall, you promised to look after them.
To jump to the point, I would suggest that if a loved one does this to you, where they ask you to promise and make a pact on their death bed, that we take responsibility and correct the pact to be something manageable where it won't destroy our lives if we agree to it. We can say something like: 'I'll do the best that I can to help this person' - and of course understand for ourselves that 'helping' a person may mean helping them take responsibility if necessary, so that the person has consequences to their actions. 'Looking after' should never mean 'tolerating abuse' and not living your own life and reaching for your own dreams.
We need to be careful, in general, with what we sign up for. It is important for many of us to live according to our word, and if we make a promise we stick by it. Other people can think us flakey if we don't live up to our promises. We need to be impeccable with our word, as it is a powerful thing. We can live powerfully and honorably and be taken seriously when we do what we say we're going to do. However, one of the greatest sources of stress is over committing to something that one realistically cannot carry through with. We can feel tremendous guilt, a sense of wrongness over our actions or inactions as a result. And guilt can make our very own shadows seem longer. If you do find yourself in this situation, remember that you can apologise, an often overlooked yet powerful action. We can apologise to both the living and the departed.
Remembering this and giving pause to think about the ramifications of a promise will prevent getting into a situation where we are compromised. Of course, if you believe in something and believe that you can and want to carry through with it, by all means, do it. Just be careful.